From the day we step foot into kindergarten, it's engrained in our brains that we need to go to college. If you hope to land a well-paying job, you better have a college education.
But we're reaching a point where a bachelor's degree is like a high school diploma: everyone has one. College kids are graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, and many wind up working jobs that barely make ends meet.
Of course, this isn't the story for every college graduate. But for those who want a good-paying job and would rather not attend college, there's another option: the trades.
In 2015, NPR ran a story that encouraged millennials to consider a career in trades. According to the report, economists say there are millions of well-paying jobs in the trades, which includes plumbing, HVAC and electricians.
In fact, some trades pay more than jobs that require college degrees. The average electrician earns $5,000 more than the average college graduate. And with the baby boomer generation retiring, we're going to be needing skilled workers to fill these positions.
Here's a look at the average salaries of some of the most popular skilled trades careers:
- Aircraft Mechanic: $49,000
- Pipefitter: $49,000
- Driver: $51,000
- Sheet Metal Mechanic: $47,000
- Painter: $35,000
- Machinist: $37,000
- Maintenance Mechanic: $38,000
- Subway Operator: $60,000
- Locomotive Engineer: $63,000
- Aerospace Operations: $61,000
- Elevator Installer/Repairer: $73,000
For those who aren't excited at the prospect of attending college, the trades offer an alternative that still allows you to earn a good living.
Trade schools are also much cheaper, and training doesn’t typically take four years. Tuition costs have increased by 300% since 1990. The average bachelor's degree costs over $100,000 – up to $150,000 if the degree is financed entirely through loans.
Many community colleges offer training for the trades, and tuition can be as low as $2,000 a semester. Training is quick, too, lasting six months to two years. In most cases, the trades offer hands-on training or on-the-job training that makes it easier to transition to the real-world work environment.
If you're worried about availability of jobs, don't be. There are positions in the trades in every part of the country. You don't have to work for a small business either. For example, Mr. Rooter has franchises all over the country.
Skilled trades cannot be outsourced. Not only are there plenty of jobs, but there's increased job security with these positions. There will always be a need for electricians, plumbers, mechanics, welders and other similar positions. Bridges and roads will always be built here in the country. You can't outsource skyscraper projects overseas.
Without skilled trade workers, our country's infrastructure would literally crumble.
That leads me to another point: the trades can offer great job satisfaction. Our country literally depends on skilled trade workers to fix our roads, keep our cars running, make sure we have power and keep our plumbing working properly. Each day on the job, you know that your work is making a difference in some way and not just boosting a company's sales and profits.